MasterClass: Find your character’s voice… through song!

Are you one of those people who loves to sing and write? Then you know that music taps into our deepest emotions – it’s a brilliant way to express yourself. Music is what many of us turn to in order to express joy, anger, a broken heart, or even frustration. So wouldn’t it seem the obvious way to help us access those characters we are writing about, the ones who just don’t want to reveal themselves? Perhaps you are writing a novel and the main character isn’t developing, or you can’t get a clear sense of who they really are – sounds crazy since you are the one who made them up in the first place – but writing deep, emotional characters that resonate with a reader can be difficult. Getting past the superficial characteristics and finding out what truly makes them tick takes work.

Write Now has made it our mission to occasionally  offer workshops that are outside of the box. Sure the basics are necessary and we will continue to offer those, but every once in awhile someone like Catrina Poor comes along and ‘voila’ we are standing outside the box  looking at a very common problem (evasive characters) and thinking, what would be a different approach? There are always benefits to uniting different genres of art – the results can be inspiring, insightful, and sometimes very practical.

In this particular workshop – which we are offering as a MasterClass because it will be intense, and you will come away with a very new approach – Catrina will teach you hands on, and with a lot of one to one attention, how to find your character’s authentic voice, using singing, song analysis, and basic performance techniques. She is highly professional and talented. You will not be disappointed!

For those of you who are considering this workshop but perhaps are feeling a bit apprehensive about singing in front of a group, rest assured, the environment will feel both creative and safe. The focus is not on your singing ability, but on your character. And you can always go home and practice what you’ve learned!

Classes will run for three Sunday afternoons – October 15, October 29, and November 12.

Space is limited to 8 participants. Reserve your space now! 

Indian Spring

Award-winning Indian author Ardashir Vakil is coming to Austria in May to host an exclusive networking/reading, following by a creative writing event. The title of the workshop: Writing for Life. A special offer price on the workshop ends on Friday.

As writers – especially in that first big work – we often choose to use our own life experiences and memories, drawing on deeply personal themes and details to enrich plot, create three-dimensional characters and build a body of material to work from. But how should we do this effectively, and make the most of those experiences to create really strong writing?

Now, in a creative writing weekend organised by writers’ group Write Now, the author Ardashir Vakil, who also lectures in creative writing in London, will be giving a free reading of a recent short story of his, following by a two-day workshop. Here’s what that weekend will look like…

On the evening of Friday 5 May, Vakil will read ‘Impromptu’, a piece he wrote in 2014 and which was published in the spring of that year in Raritan, a prestigious American literary journal. The piece has a very Viennese theme, and the reading will take place at the Arts Centre below the Cafe Korb in the Innenstadt, beginning at 9 p.m. The author will read for 35 minutes, after which participants will be invited to question Vakil, before enjoying a drink and networking event with the other writers, publishers, journalists and artists present. The reading and social opportunity will be free of charge.

Subsequently, on the mornings and early afternoons of Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 May, Vakil will host a workshop for twelve people, examining how to take one’s own life story, experience and memories, and work it into your writing to enrich plot and characters in novels and short stories. Vakil’s own best-selling novel, ‘Beach Boy’, is a coming-of-age story dealing with his own childhood in ‘60s and ‘70s Bombay, which won the Betty Trask Award.

The workshop will consist of writing exercises when all participants, including Vakil, will write for anything from 5 to 20 minutes. All participants will get a chance to read to the group and receive feedback from Vakil and their peers. Questions on issues such as plot, character, narrative technique and voice will be discussed throughout the workshop, and Vakil will make room to address any outstanding questions participants may wish to discuss during intervals in each session and lunch afterwards.

The workshop is being kept small, with twelve participants, to maximise direct interaction and close-in access to the host. Tickets for the workshop cost € 175 if booked by he end of this week, 31 March, and € 195 if booked after that date. The workshop will be held in the Arts Centre below the Cafe Korb, five minutes’ walk from Stephansdom.

If you think you might be interested in attending the workshop and networking event for free, or would like to book a place on the workshop, please contact Tim Martinz-Lywood by calling 0650 289 1150 or drop in at the Write Now website.

Write Now is a group dedicated to creating a platform for English-language writes in Vienna to network, exchange writing experiences and socialise with life minds. 

Writing from Life

Award winning novelist and creative writing lecturer at Goldsmiths, Ardu Vakil, based in Mumbai and London, is coming to do a workshop for us this May!

The workshop will be looking in particular at how to successfully draw from your personal life story and incorporate it into your writing. This may be in the form of memoir, using your life as inspiration, writing what you know, or simply boring details from life. 

As an introduction to Ardu Vakil and his thoughts on writing, here’s an interview I did with him over the phone earlier this week.

How old were you when you first started to write?

Twelve. In the school magazine. ‘One Night in the Life of Ardu Vakilovich’. I still have a copy somewhere.

Describe for us an early experience that taught you language had power.

My friend at school, Dilip used to ask me for help with writing love letters to a girl he had a crush on. It worked. She became his girlfriend on the strength of my flowery, purple prose.

When did you realise you could actually make a living as a writer?

In London, in 1994, after the publication of my first novel ‘Beach Boy’. It won a Betty Trask Award before it was even published. And I was contacted by the Wylie Agency to come and meet them with a view to representing me. The reality, of course, is that it is only a handful of published writers who can actually make a living solely from the income generated by sales of books.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Write as much as you can, be disciplined, force yourself to write sometimes even when you don’t want to, but don’t be judgemental and self-stricturing. Don’t keep worrying about whether something is brilliant or not.

How important is personal life experience for you? Is it the most potent tool aspiring writers have to work with?

Yes. In the beginning. You have to start, in my opinion, by making yourself and any of your experiences the stories you write. If you can’t bring your own stories alive, if you can’t make yourself an interesting character to readers, you are unlikely to be able to make up convincing, engaging situations and characters.

What’s the most challenging part of the writing process for you?

Returning every day to the work, despite being beset by anxieties and uncertainties.

Does writing energise or exhaust you, and how has it changed you over the years?

When something I have written, after months of the hard work of searching, composing and editing is finished, I read over a decent paragraph and feel a sense of wonder. It’s certainly a rare feeling.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

My friends and sometimes members of my family have read over my work and made helpful suggestions. Working with Creative Writing students at Goldsmiths has also been instructive and inspiring for me as a writer. Watching the growth of other people’s work and seeing what dedication to determination can achieve. Those last two are probably the most crucial aspects of writing, though they don’t guarantee success, they guarantee that you will finish the work you started.

Do you want each of your books to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’d like my stories and books to stand on their own. Each one is a separate entity. I do intend to write a sequel to Beach Boy, but in many ways, it will be a very different kind of book.

Who is your favourite author, and why?

I think Chekhov’s stories are always improvisatory, moving and alive.

I think all writers who have any ambition should read and reread ‘Anna Karenina’.

Recently, my favourite author has been Sadat Hasan Manto.

One of your most critically-acclaimed books has been Beach Boy, dealing with your youth in what was then Bombay. What did you edit out of this book?

A scene where I went for a swim in the sea outside my childhood home and I cried a lot; my salty tears mixing with the waves. It was untrue, lachrymose, and didn’t fit with the character in the book.

What has been the hardest scene you’ve ever had to write, and why so?

Writing is most hard when you feel you have to do it and you don’t want to. For example, I know what a train station in Bombay looks like, but to have to put it into words is a struggle. How to avoid clichés? What to leave in what to leave out? Who am I writing it for? Ultimately, I go back to the characters and the story. I’m not that interested in description for its own sake, a few lines maybe, if they are really beautiful.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

The most important thing money buys for a writer is time, apart from laptops!

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

I am the first and foremost reader of my work. I am an exacting reader. I don’t like being experimented on by the writer, especially if that writer is me! Much of what I have written has been pushed to one side; my own slush pile if you like. I want to be moved and I want the character and situation to be alive on the page. If that happens, I’m satisfied, if not I start anew.

 

How long on average does it take for you to write a book?

How long is a piece of string question?

‘Beach Boy’ took two years, start to finish, but it depends on what you mean by the ‘start’.

Faulkner wrote ‘As I Lay Dying’ in 8 weeks. Harper Lee’s second novel took 30 years, but not sure this kind of info is helpful to any writer. A writer acquaintance said to me, she always knows how many hours a novel is going to take her start to finish. That’s a little weird. She’s written three or four short novels. (100 pages each)

What’s more important for you: characters or plot?

Definitely characters. Plot is empty without character who the reader cares about.

Early bird registration for this workshop will open on Wednesday March 1, 2017. Early bird tickets for the two-day workshop, running Saturday May 6 and Sunday May 7, will be €175. Registration after April 1st will be €195. Workshop details will be posted on the site on March 1st. This workshop is limited to 12 participants and tickets are expected to sell out fast, so please contact us at office.writenow@gmail.com to reserve a seat, or check back next week for more info!

 

Poetry and Story Workshop

Award winning poet Alice Miller is back for yet another workshop with Write Now! Why do we keep bringing her back? Because she is an amazing teacher, poet and all round nice person. As we are exploring storytelling through our workshops and events this year, Alice has delightfully created a workshop that does just that, and much more. Don’t miss the opportunity to work with Alice and come out with some polished poems that tell a story…

Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Alice…

Poetry and Story

This is the bridge where at dusk they hear voices

In this class we’ll look at how different poets touch, brush against, and embrace story, through narrative devices, line, voice, or music — not only in a single poem, but also in a poetic series, or over the course of an entire book. The classes will be divided into two — the first part being an informal lecture and discussion, and the second part being a workshop of your own work. Limited to 10 participants.

Instructor: Alice Miller

Location: vienna poetry school

Every Friday for four weeks, 10 February, 2017 to 3 March

18:30pm – 20:30pm

Fee: €185

Workshop Registration Form

2016—Your Year of Amazing Writing Achievements!

imagesWith the year before us and all the opportunities that lay in wait, there is no better time to plan your writing activities. And what better way to crystallise your best intentions then in the fine company of fellow writers.

Facilitated by Kirsten Donaghey and Paul Malone, Write Now invites you to our very first (and perhaps most important!) event of the year:

2016—Your Year of Amazing Writing Achievements!

Wherever your writing endeavours may lead you, we’d love to help you on your journey. On the evening we’ll guide you through your own personal planning process—setting meaningful, measurable, and achievable goals that will progressively elevate and energise your writing.

So, if you’re up for an amazing year of writing achievements, take your boldest marker and emblazon your calendar with the following date:

Thursday 21st January

Palais Palffy- Josefsplatz 6 (enter the main door and we are the first door on the left)

Please drop us a line at office.writenow@gmail.com if you are coming and if you will bring along a guest.

We look forward to seeing you on the night.

What a Workshop!

A few weeks ago Write Now hosted an amazing two-day workshop at the WUK with Irish writer Julian Gough. One of the attendees enjoyed it so much he wrote a post on his own blog site. It is a three-part post so be sure to check out each one.

And here are a few photos from Julian’s reading at the Lane and Merriman Pub. What an evening!

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Literary Reading- Julian Gough

Julian Gough with coffee in Library Bar credit Solana JoyCome to a reading on November 12, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Julian Gough, award winning author of “The Orphan and the Mob”, the “iHole”, Jude in Ireland, Jude in London, and the UK number one Kindle Single “CRASH!” will be reading from his work. He is contemporary, creative and entertaining. So please do come out for a listen, ask some questions, meet some people and have a drink. This event is co-hosted by Write Now and the Irish Embassy. And it’s FREE.

Where: Lane and Merriman’s Irish Pub, Spitalgasse 3, 1090

Registration is not required but we always appreciate a quick email to let us know you are coming. tamara.writenow@gmail.com

And don’t miss out on Julian’s spectacular Short Story workshop on November 14/15! More information here.

What really happened at our first writers’ retreat

By Paul Malone

 We held our first writers’ retreat last weekend at a farmhouse in Lower Austria. The weather was perfect: it rained! Extremely conducive for immersing oneself in writing and the good company of other writers.

There were fellow Australians, a couple of Canadians, a chap from London, one perfectly bilingual Austrian, a few of the cosmopolitan “I’ve lived everywhere” types. Check out our smiling faces.

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What did we write? Essays, novel chapters, short stories, for a start. Some of us wrote in the company of others in the farmhouse dining hall. Others wrote in the quietude of their rooms with a view…to all that fog. Atmospheric, slightly melancholic pieces were written, no doubt.

We ventured to the town of Weitra for the local cuisine: goulash and schnitzel, that sort of thing, at an old brewery. Some of us wandered into the forest to look at Czech totem poles signifying the Zodiac. Others soaked up the warmth in the steam room and infrared cabinet. One of us spent much of his time in bed being clobbered by a nasty cold.

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No this is isn’t where we slept!

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Hard at work…

We collaborated too: a short story called Istanbul. We came up with a framework for our story that included situation, character, objective, opponent, disaster. We drew names from a hat to determine the sequence of writers. Here were the rules:

  1. The story was to be written based on the framework
  2. Each writer had roughly 250 words before passing it on.
  3. There was no rewrite
  4. The story had to draw to its natural conclusion with the last writer

How did it go? Well, you can read for yourself. Istanbul (1st draft, no edits) is attached. It took a great deal of imagination and cooperation to complete the story. It was also fun. We read it out during our farewell lunch (see below). We all had a good laugh. Give it a read, let us know what you think:

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Farewell dinner!

I can’t speak for everyone as to what they took away with them from the retreat. I discovered new things: I’m trialing scrivener software (for writers) thanks to another retreater who explained Word really is for office documents. I received valuable group feedback on a short story. I have since revised the story and sent it off to one of my favorite publishers. I met some lovely people. I had a great time. I felt things opening up for me just a little more. It was exciting.

There will be another retreat in the winter (snowy and idyllic). I’m looking forward to it. I hope you might join us.

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By the way, if you’re looking for a farm stay, I can highly recommend Family Bruckner. Their farm is ideal for families as well as writers. There is a huge barn made into an indoor playground (no, we didn’t get time to go for a slide). Here is their link:

Interview with Abigail Rasminsky

2012-03-08 14.19.16On 22 November, Abigail Rasminsky will be hosting a Write Now workshop, “Getting Started: How to Begin a Writing Project.” Tim Martinz-Lywood talked to Abby about writing in the online age, writing in New York vs. writing in Vienna, and how to get writing at all…

  1. Abby, much of the work you’ve published since arriving in Vienna has consisted of essays on issues that interest you. Has the new bottom-up, ‘rolling news’ culture of publishing that has developed through social media over the past decade enriched writing, or impoverished it?

Well, it has certainly created more forums for being published. You don’t even need an editor anymore! Get a blog (or a Facebook or Twitter account) and you can write whatever you want and publish it by simply clicking “Send.” In some ways this new culture of publishing—in which there are umpteen places to send your work—is wonderful. If you get rejected by one online magazine, for example, you can just send it to someone else, and usually you hear back quite quickly. Gone are the days of sending anything out by mail and waiting months for a reply. All of this is great. More people are being published, which means there are more voices out in the world. That said, something is lost when editors (and writers) aren’t paid to do their work. There’s a reason editors are employed (and writers, too!)—they are, for the most part, really, really good at what they do! They make your essay or story or novel better. So while I’d say that social media has certainly opened up many more channels for publication, the quality is not necessarily better.

  1. Do blogging and essay-writing help develop the writing craft in other forms, such as fiction or journalism?

Writing helps writing—in other words, the more you write, the better you get at it, no matter the form or venue. The major thing blogging can do is to get you to write regularly—and perhaps it can help you collect a few loyal readers along the way. Because there aren’t any rules to blogging (a blog entry can be mostly photos or links from around the internet), it isn’t always going to do a whole lot to improve your craft, but if the blog entries are little essays—then of course they can help! Anytime you have to think narratively, create a coherent arc, build tension, etc., you’re working your craft, and that can always translate into journalism or fiction.

  1. Much of your work has also focused on being forced to give up dancing professionally at 28, due to injury. How has writing about the experience of a life-changing health issue changed that experience, do you think?

When I was first injured—I herniated two discs in my lower back and had to quit my career as a professional modern dancer—writing was the only thing that provided any solace. I spent most of my days at home, lying on ice or in the bathtub (and ingesting way too many pain relievers), and writing was the only thing that helped me make sense of this scary, destabilizing experience. As the years went on and I started to write about the experience more seriously, I was able to turn something devastating and personal into something that was connected to a larger narrative of pain, illness and loss—I wasn’t the only one who’d been through a life-changing physical change! I wasn’t the only one who had dreams for her life and career and body that fell apart! This is the incredible thing about literature—our own experiences are both our own and part of an enormous web of stories that can tell us something new and enlightening about what it means to be here, trying to make sense of our lives.

  1. What have been your impressions of the Viennese writing scene since moving here from North America? Has the internet dumbed down the major cultural distinctions?

Sadly, these days, my writing scene is almost all online. I communicate with other writers and readers through Twitter and Facebook and over e-mail. I choose what I read based on what my friends and fellow writers back in New York are touting, and I celebrate their books online. Since coming to Vienna, I’ve mostly been steeped in new motherhood, so my intellectual and artistic lives haven’t taken root in cafés, readings or conferences (yet!), but online during the short moments when my daughter is at school or asleep. I am, I must admit, very grateful for the internet for this very reason. I can be 3,000 miles away from New York, but still feel like I have a sense of what’s going on. And perhaps when my baby is a little older, I’ll spend more time drinking coffee and writing in old Viennese cafés like the greats once did.

That said, I’ve found that I have SO MUCH TO WRITE ABOUT simply by living here—the gorgeous city, the experience of being an expat, the difficulty of learning a language and adapting to a foreign culture. And I’ve met a lot of writers whose work is very different from my own, which didn’t happen as much back home. I have a good friend here who’s a science writer, and another who’s working on a dissertation about the novella, so in some ways, being in a new circle of writers has expanded my view of what good and interesting writing can be.

  1. How will your workshop “Getting Started: How to Begin a Writing Project” help participants do just that? How did you come up with the theme for the workshop, and how it has worked elsewhere?

I think of getting started in two ways: first there’s the actual act of getting started—sitting down, putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and producing something, no matter how bad. Many people get stuck before they even start because what they hear in their minds (characters talking, plot brewing) is so much better than what actually ends up on the page. Welcome to every writer’s life! If we can just get going—generate material, no matter how sloppy or outlandish—we will have something to work with. So we’ll do a bunch of generating exercises to get some of those ideas out of our heads and onto the page.

The other aspect of getting started is the question of how books actually begin, so to that end, we will look at stellar opening lines from literature. How do the greats do it? Why do we all know “Call me Ishmael”? How can an opening line hook us in and keep us reading? What can an opening line tell us about what’s to come?

People are mostly very happy to just sit down and generate, so the workshop is always a lot of fun. It’s the editing process that’s a whole other story…

Abigail Rasminsky has written for The New York Times; O: The Oprah Magazine; Brain, Child Magazine; The Morning News; Medium; The Forward; The Toast; and Dance Magazine, among other publications. She is a graduate of Columbia’s MFA Writing Program, where she taught creative writing to undergraduates. More at abigailrasminsky.com.

To find out more about joining Abby’s November workshop, Getting Started: How to Begin a Writing Project, just click here and scroll down.